Zohra Sehgal is The Artist of dance,theatre,film and life
Zohra Sehgal has turned 100. In a world that celebrates the young and their fleeting fancies,where cultural memes bubble up and die in hours,this is a moment to celebrate age and real accomplishment. She is older than the oldest Indian film,and still vivacious,in the deepest sense of the word. Her life moved from early years in a traditional Saharanpur family and purdah when at college,to the artistic and intellectual ferment of the 1930s and 40s in Europe and India,and playing a leading part in every decade of cultural life in this country. She has danced around the world with Uday Shankars ballet troupe,she was an integral part of the Indian Peoples Theatre Association and Prithvi Theatre,and the formative years of Bombay cinema.
Compared to the cold-blooded brand building of todays celebrities to be fair,they dont have much of an option Zohra Sehgals career seems to have been propelled by a sense of fun,by a passion for the pursuit itself. Thats why it is so unclassifiable. And her range so staggering: from The Jewel in the Crown to Saanwariya. She has acted on stage,choreographed,done puppet theatre,poetry recitals,worked in British television and film,intervened in causes she cared about,and is still recognisable as the salty old grandmother in Indian movies. She may have picked up a houseful of awards and honours along the way,but the motivation is internal,unmindful of appearances. Even her personal setbacks (and they have been considerable) have not dimmed her light she has always emerged alright,raring to go. In her eighties,she returned to India to start a new stint in the movies.
Her ability to keep going,to enjoy attention,to entertain,is hard to match. And watching her,you know she knows what a delight she is. Happy Birthday,Zohra Sehgal.